Feeling Welcome at the AYE Conference

Out of all the conferences out there, the Amplifying Your Effectiveness conference is surely one of the most curious. Started in 2000 as a challenge (so he told me) from Jerry Weinberg (“so do you think you can do better”) to his protégés who were complaining about talking-heads conferences (“of course we can”), the AYE conference has been going strong for almost 10 years, and has garnered a loyal circle of attendees.

What stood out for me when I visited AYE for the first time in 2007, was how welcome I felt from day one. It was a stark contrast with a completely different gathering that I visited in Stockholm the year after. At the Stockholm gathering, I remember walking up to one of the hosts, and introducing myself. I explained that I worked for one of the companies sponsoring the conference. His reply was short: “Ok. Nice to meet you”. Then he turned around and walked away. I did not feel welcome.

Contrast this with the AYE approach. Before the conference begins proper, a pre-conference tutorial is arranged. Intended for first time visitors, this full day session not only works through the core topics of the conference, but also gives ample time for letting people get to know one another. The exercises used aren’t rocket science, which is probably why so many other conferences shun them – they seem almost silly. Participants show and tell their stories, and listen carefully to each other. It works wonders for relationships.

When the desert sun (AYE is held in Phoenix, Arizona) finally sets on the tutorial day, the conference is kicked off with a big outdoors welcoming dinner. A simple thing too, but very effective. People are seated around round tables of course, so you can really see each other.

Another seemingly minor detail stands out for me. AYE participants all create their own name tags, and carry them around their neck using a green strap. This means that, as you walk around the large hotel, which is flat rather than high, you constantly say hello to other participants (even those you don’t yet know very well) wearing the signature AYE neck strap.

If you haven’t tried it already, and you’re interested in the topics covered (teamwork, communication skills, leadership, change) give the AYE conference a chance next year. I’m sure I’ll be there again. And if you think this reads like a commercial, then so be it. Some things are just so good I feel I absolutely have to help sell them.

Published by Tobias Fors

I'm a software management consultant. I help other people succeed with software development. In my work, I help teams and organizations be more effective and ship software.

6 replies on “Feeling Welcome at the AYE Conference”

  1. Great post Tobias. I agree whole-heartedly. I learned not only from the sessions but by watching the hosts interact with people and it was wonderful to see how open and approachable everyone at the conference was.

  2. Thanks for commenting Jason. I agree that there are huge opportunities for “meta-learning” at the conference. As a trainer myself, I (and my students) have benefited enormously from what I’ve learned by studying the techniques used at AYE and the PSL workshop. Both the coaching techniques used by the hosts and the design of the sessions themselves are absolutely useful to study.

  3. Nice writeup – made me smile just reading it. It really is a very comfortable experience, I kept saying “I’m so in my element.” I found myself much more open & receptive to new ideas, and I think that environment contributed strongly to that. So that I find myself coming home with new outlooks on work and life and such.

    Very cool – I hope to go again. :)

    And was way cool getting to meet you!

  4. Tobias, thank you for sharing.

    As a long time acquaintance of Jerry’s, I’ve often thought of attending AYE, but circumstances have intervened. And yes, I know it’s different from most if not all of the competing conferences.

    Do buy and read Jerry’s books, at least some of them, and I strongly recommend the fiction as well.

  5. Hi Brian, thanks for commenting, I appreciate it! My bookshelf has long been filled with Jerry’s books. I’m currently reading “Perfect Software and other illusions about about testing”, which I picked up at AYE. Hope to see you there next year!

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